Richt at the Podium

ATHENS - Mark Richt spoke to the media Tuesday about this weekend's matchup with Coastal Carolina.

Opening Statement…

"We are getting ready for Coastal Carolina. Offensively they are kind of a fast-pace, no-huddle team. They spread you out. They have a quarterback running game that is very, very good. They look a lot like what Mississippi State looks like on offense. They resemble what Auburn was doing with their spread and their QB run. So that gives you a little bit of a taste of what you are dealing with.

"Their offensive line is a group that is actually pretty good size. Four of the five guys are over 300-pounders. The center is at 285, Pat Williams, who happens to be a Georgia boy. I think he was at Westlake High School. Matt Hazel is their leading receiver. He's more of a big, tall, physical kid – 6-3, 200. (Adrian Sullivan) is just the opposite. He's 5-6, 165 pounds, but a very quick guy. It's a little bit similar to last week when South Carolina had the big, giant receiver and then one who was more of a quick screen guy, a guy they would try to get the ball to out there in space.

"They have a tight end, David Duran, who is a Michigan State transfer. They have quite a few transfers on their team, and he is one of them. Aramis Hillary is the quarterback. He is doing a very good job, but they also play Jamie Childers. He plays some tight end, he plays some quarterback. He is a senior, 6-5, 230 pounds.

"They play three running backs. They are very tough, rugged runners and guys with good balance, not necessarily guys with great breakaway speed, but outstanding players. Of course they are 2-0 and coming in with their sights set on us.

"Defensively they are little bit similar to us in scheme. They will play their 3-4 look versus more of our base offense if we are in two-receiver sets. If you go to three-receiver sets, they tend to be more in a 4-3. They do a pretty good job of rolling their d-linemen. Jamel Davis, I don't know if anyone has a report on him, but it looked like he played about a quarter or so and didn't look to go back in. We couldn't find out if he was injured or not. We are still trying to dig into that. (Chad) McField is an inside player, 6-2, 280 senior, their most impressive down lineman I would say. They have other guys who aren't super tall in the defensive line, but they are stout and athletic. They entire defense is very fast.

"We think their linebacking corps is very good. Andrae Jacobs is a big time player. He was player of the year in their conference last year. He is going to be a big challenge for Bruce (Figgins) and (Alexander) Ogletree. He's a very, very physical guy. We're watching him just pummel fullbacks and drop them in their tracks. He's a very, very physical guy.

"Their corners are very experienced. Josh Norman is 6-2, 190. He's a tall corner who plays man extremely well in my opinion, especially down in the red zone and goal line area. It is very difficult to make a play on him. No one has done it yet that I've seen. Overall they are just a physical bunch of guys. They run hard and play physical. You can see why they are 2-0 at this point.

"Their specialists, they have two young kickoff guys. I think one started one game and one started the other game. I'm not sure who is going to kickoff for them. We'll just see. Every kick so far has been returnable. Nothing has been out of the end zone. I think they did knock one out of bounds. Their placekicker actually missed an extra point, but we're still trying to figure out what his range is. Their punter is (Austin) Cain. He's also from Georgia. He's been punting the traditional punt, but also the rugby style where they will punt it on the run. You have to be leery of fakes with anybody who does that kind of thing. It just takes a little bit more time to prepare for teams that do both the conventional punt and the rugby punt. That will give us some things to work on. Niccolo Mastromatteo is their punt and kick return man. I know last year as a punt return man he had a 91-yard touchdown return, and he's pretty good on the kickoff return too. They do have twin safeties, but their goal is to get it to number 20.

"They have 19 players from Georgia. Last week they blocked a punt. Last year they were also Big South champs. They've done very well there in the short time they've been playing football."

On Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett's press conference last week…

"It looked like close to half a million people saw it. I'm one of them. I don't know the context of it. It looked like it jumped right into the middle of the conversation, so I really don't know 100 percent sure what it was about other than motivating his guys to get after somebody's rear end. Whatever works, the way I see it."

On South Carolina's fake punt last week against Georgia… "Traditionally, everybody who sets up a return, I think everybody is vulnerable to a fake. There are people designed to be there for the fake and we didn't just run out of there and let it be. They blocked well, and the one unblocked guy couldn't make the play. That guy was a pretty big beast. He's an athlete. That's a big, giant man who was running that ball, and some of our punt return guys and personnel are smaller guys. They are smaller, quicker guys who can hopefully stick on a block when we are trying to set up returns and things of that nature. You can go punt safe and leave your defense in there, which I could've and in hindsight should've. It was fourth-and-seven and relatively deep in their territory. It takes some risks to call the fake because it's not a guarantee by any means, but they designed it well and the one guy who could've made a play didn't. That was at the line of scrimmage. Farther down the field we had a chance to make an open-field tackle on a guy who was 260 pounds, but he actually had a nice little move and had some good speed. He was impressive. They did a great job on that. You could go punt safe every single time they punt, but early in the game you noticed a lot of fair catches. That's part of the reason you don't set up a return. If you are in punt safe, you are making sure there is no fake, but you aren't setting up a return. Now it's just a matter of fielding the ball and making sure you get it back. You could spend the entire season doing that, but we also had a nice return by Branden Smith. We ended up setting up momentum for a score after one of his returns. You definitely have to have guys responsible for it, and they have to make the play when it presents itself. It wasn't a situation where no one was there and no one was responsible for it. They just didn't physically get the guy down."

On Isaiah Crowell

"I think he's done pretty well. I think he's learned a lot. It's just so hard to explain to a guy what it's going to be like until they just start doing it. Now he's been in the Georgia Dome and had that experience and had a Southeastern Conference experience in a game that he could tell that one play can make the difference. I think he understands a lot more about what it takes, and I think he's even more motivated to work even harder in practice and to make sure he takes care of every little detail. Not to say that he wasn't, but he's a freshman, and until you play in an SEC game like that you don't get it fully. I saw more of an urgency on his part even in yesterday's practice. He seems excited about what the future holds. Right now we do have him slated as the starter for this week. His production as a runner is a big part of it certainly, but Richard (Samuel) is also kind of hobbled. I don't know how much he'll get today. Now that he's in that role, a lot of guys will get an even greater sense of urgency in their preparation. I think he is a very special back. As the game was going on I thought he was running well, but when I looked at the film he really made some great runs. He did take a shot in the ribs and he was having trouble breathing. I think his energy level, his excitement level got to where he'd raise his hand and want to come off. You say stay in there, but you don't know why he wants to come out to begin with, so when he wanted to come out he came out. But I think he'll stay in a little bit more than a couple of runs. Although there were a couple of relatively long runs. It was relatively hot at that moment. I think his endurance will build as we go too and as he prepares and as the weather cools throughout the season."

On Richard Samuel's injury….

"It's not a muscle pull. It was something with his heel. More of a heel contusion."

On who will play behind Isaiah Crowell…

"Right now in my opinion it would be Carlton Thomas. Today is a big day, today is a competition day, today is a physical day. Today's a day that we'll get in pads and do some live football and guys will have an opportunity to show they ought to be playing. That's part of the reason why we do it."

On Georgia's young receivers, particularly Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett

"I was very impressed. They do still make some mistakes. They still don't know how to run every route versus every kind of coverage that could come on them, mostly an inside leverage press coverage, an outside leverage press coverage. Certain routes just are tougher to run when guys have their hands on you right away, and learning how to get off the jam a little bit better, talking about Malcolm mainly. They are very, very competitive. They have very good ball skills obviously. There is a toughness about them that I really like. Sometimes it takes time to get a guy tough enough to play the game the way it should be played and get after it they way he should get after it. I really think these guys showed up with some physical and mental toughness that I really like. I said it after the game, but even after watching the film of Michael Bennett's catch I thought that was one of the best catches I've ever seen, and especially how important it was at that moment. It's third down and if we don't make it we might be deciding to kick a field goal. He makes it then we go score the next play. When everybody came off the field everybody is hugging Isaiah, and I was happy for the run Isaiah made too, but I grabbed that kid and gave him a big hug because that was a heck of a play. That helps those guys gain confidence and I think makes everybody around them better."

On who will get time this week at the inside linebacker position…

"It will be at least after Wednesday to kind of hone in down to see."

On this week's captains and Bruce Figgins' transformation into a fullback…

"You guys might have already got it, but our captain's for the record are on offense Ben Jones and Bruce Figgins, on defense Brandon Boykin and on special teams Orson Charles. Those are the captains. I haven't seen Bruce this happy in a while. It's been tough. He's had some tough bumps in the road, but this kid has overcome it. He's become a leader. He's become an excellent fullback. He's still a very good tight end. I'm so thankful that this, I guess it's an experiment, worked out as well as it did. In the spring, quite frankly, it was pretty close competition I thought, and Zander (Alexander Ogletree) might have even been a little bit ahead in just the pure fullback stuff. But by time camp was over Bruce had just kept getting better and better every day, and his attitude's been fantastic. If you play well, you have a chance to be a captain, but if you play well and you have the right attitude and you lead on a daily basis in practice and on gameday, then you got a chance to be a captain. That's why Bruce is a captain – because of his play and his leadership."

On how well suited Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera are to see more reps…

"They are getting a lot more reps. Amarlo played a bunch. Ramik didn't play a ton, but he may get a lot more. I will say this: we recruited the right body types and the right people. They are great kids. They've got tremendous ability, and now they just need to play and that's what we're doing."

On the offensive tackle positions going the distance in both games and if younger guys will get to see playing time at the position…

"They have not been taken out of the game for any play yet. The only guy that has come out of a game is (Kenarious) Gates because of an injury, and then (Dallas) Lee went in and that's been the lineup. I'd like to play those young tackles, but we need to focus on winning this ballgame and get the best five out there right now. It's really all we can do."

On if it has been determined to put a redshirt on Jay Rome

"Not yet, but I mean let's face it he is sitting behind a pretty strong core of tight ends right now. That in itself is going to be tough on him. I guess it's of similar to Michael Bennett. Him and Michael are a lot of like in my opinion as far as I though Michael was mature enough to play SEC football a year ago, but with the guys we had at receiver and how much he would have actually got to play we felt like it was in his best interest not to. I think Jay is a guy that is mature enough to play Southeastern Conference football, but he's also sitting in a spot where it's going to be tough to him enough reps to really justify it. It's still relatively early and you don't have to make any decisions yet, but that's kind of where he is right now."

On how he views this game coming off two tough opponents…

"This is another team that understands winning. They were conference champions a year ago. When you watch them play, they execute well, they run hard, they tackle physical and they are productive in the things that they do. I promise you they are going to show up looking to knock us off. I don't think there is any doubt about that. I don't think there's a team that is coming in saying we are just going to collect a check and leave. That's not their personality. It's not the personality of their coach. We've got to execute. If we go out there and don't play good we're going to have a war, and we may have a war anyway. I don't know. We're going to find out. We're looking to play the very best we can, improve as much this Tuesday as we did last Tuesday and everyday our focus must be on finding ways to get better."

At this point forward, how would he define a successful season…

"Win the Eastern Division and win the SEC. That's how I would. Are you kidding me? When's the last time the Eastern Division had an undefeated team? I don't even know. It's been a long time. That's our goal and that hasn't changed one bit. Let's face it, could that game on Saturday gone either way? I think it's pretty obvious that it could have. Did we improve tremendously in a lot of areas? There's no doubt about that. I left the field sick about losing but encouraged about the team, encouraged about so many things that are important to winning. I'll mention this again, we had veterans trying to get on the special teams. They are taking rookies and saying get out, I'm in. Shawn Williams took a rookie out of there and he had a knock out block that sprung (Brandon) Boykin for the longest return of the day. We had guys that I knew were banged up pretty good but we're like 'I'm not coming out.' We had some really horrible things happen to swing momentum and came back to take the lead a couple times after those things. At the end of the fourth quarter with six minutes to go we take the lead. We gave them one more touchdown at the end, but even after that we line up and go down and score and we're in position to get the onside kick and possibly get the ball and win the game. So a lot of encouraging things, and there's seven more games for us and South Carolina. And some of the teams haven't even started their conference play, so there's a lot of football left. If South Carolina is the team to bet in the east, which right now they are – they are the preseason favorite for it and they are 1-0, but I would think we can compete with anybody in the Eastern Division and anybody in the league."

If there is any concern of an emotional letdown after the buildup of the first two games…

"Right now, no. We spend time with them yesterday. We had our meetings. We had our practice. There's not a cloud hanging over us. There might be perceptively, but as far as what I'm seeing in our staff meetings, what I'm seeing as we prepared throughout the day and night, what I'm seeing with these guys and their belief in each other and what we are doing, they know. If the game went the other way, then Georgia is the frontrunner in the East. Everybody would start thinking about all the positive possibilities. Is the difference between winning and losing that big of a difference between where we are? I don't think there is. We're going to keep improve, and after this week we got a four-game stretch before an open date with some Southeastern Conference foes and we'll just battle them one at a time and see where we are at."

On the team's win-loss record over the last two years and his perspective on why it has been that way… "Last year we went through all that, and we talked about things that are a year old. Those are old. This season is the only thing I'm really concerned about, and obviously, we turned the ball over. Not only were they turnovers, they were turnovers for points. I guess there was five yards they had to track one time. Our defense basically gave up 17 points to a pretty darn good football team. They had no responsibility for the fake punt, the pick six or the fumble for a touchdown. They could have stopped them on the five yard line going in. Sudden change – that's their job to turn it into a field goal. We just gave that one away."

On only having one sack through the first two games… "We're getting some pressure, and there's a difference between pressure and sacks. We got him (South Carolina's Stephen Garcia) running around a bit, but he ran around and threw a touchdown pass, ran around and threw a long gain in the fourth quarter. Part of the issue is that a couple of times we lost contain, and you can't have that. We also had some times when we knocked both quarterbacks (Garcia and Boise State's Kellen Moore) down as they were throwing the football and force some throws a little bit sooner than they wanted to. The one interception that we did get wasn't attributed to much pressure. It was sprint out and the ball was just thrown in there where the guy made a pretty good play. So we're getting pressure but we're definitely not getting the sacks, and right now, we are challenging our guys to be able to rush the passer without having to bring different types of pressures to get the rush, to get the sacks. We just have not had anybody step up and do that one a consistent basis anyway."

On Jeremy Sulek being an example for walk-ons sticking it out…

"He tried out one year and didn't make the cut. But instead of quitting and going home, he decided to lift, run and get stronger and try again the next year. Then he makes the team and all of sudden he's playing a lot of football for Georgia. It's a great story, and hopefully, it does attract some more guys to come and walk on for us because we sure need them."


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